March 18, 2019
March 21, 2019


Article 48 of Indian constitution states that state shall preserve the breed and prohibit cow slaughter including caves, milch and other drought cattle. Intended to be an economical measure, the ban on cow slaughter according to provisions of Article 48 of the Constitution of India has taken more or less a religious front. When one talks about the enforcement of Article 48, dealt with in Part IV of the Constitution of India, concerning Directive Principles of State Policy, they focus on slaughter of cows probably due to the religious beliefs and sentiments attached with the creature. Out of 29 states, 24 states have respective regulations for ban on sale or slaughter of cow.[1]
A milch can be a cow or any other domestic animal that either gives milk or is kept for milk. But the whole essence of enforcing this article is towards interdiction of cow slaughter and not of milch or other drought cattle. Why so much stress towards prohibition on cow slaughter when the article unequivocally includes any domestic animal that is capable of production or generating income? Well to understand the answer we will have to look long back into the history to the time around the 12th century when this land witnessed arrival of Islamic rule and their dietary practices entered India with the Delhi Sultanate. Cattle slaughter had been a religiously approved practice among the rulers. As Christianity arrived on the Indian Sea Coast, Portuguese attempted to establish their presence by various methods which included converting those they met into Roman Catholicism. The conversion rituals involved consumption of beef and pork as a corroboration that they have given up Hinduism. Since then, the act, whenever talked about, opens up unhealed wounds and hence religious sentiments are involved.
Since the time of framing of constitution cow slaughter was very heated topic of debate. The question soon arose weather to include cow slaughter which is attached with Hindu’s sentiments in the constitution of India or not. Many members of constitutional assembly called in favor to include it as a part of fundamental right under constitution of India. But as fundamental rights are inferred for human rights not for the animals. But the conflict arose between economic policy and the culture invoking sentiments of the Hindus and use of cattle for the business purpose in agriculture and in industries. This issue had been considered and placed in directive principles of state policy in article 48 of the Indian constitution which was meant to guide the state for policy making but could not be enforceable in court of law. Majority of members in constitutional assembly found it unsatisfactory.
As the Indian economy primarily depended on agriculture, the fear of drought couldn’t be eliminated. The Constitution makers had outdone their jobs in making the Constitution of India. India wouldn’t have been able to bear a drought or a crop failure. A crop failure meant no food, no income for the humongous population. Hence Article 48 was formulated to tackle these fears of drought, crop failure or unemployment. Dairy farming was the best alternative available. Hence cows and other animals were included in this article due to the value of products they have to proffer to us. Rearing of cow is both economical as well as moral. The produces offered by them will prove to be of immense value in case of paucity of food. Exporting these products ends up in turning in huge revenues. It is a good way to accommodate villages in the Indian economy without converting it into cities. Hence the Article 48 is enforceable as and when the state shall feel the need for a prohibition on butcher of these animals. The enforcement of article is in hands of the states and the ban may be imposed. It has been included in the Directive Principles of State Policy because the enforcement of the Article is subject to the government. The provision mentions ‘prevention of slaughter of milch cattle’. This was envisaged to prevent killing of bowels which are vital to the agrarian economy as they are an additional source of income through livestock rearing.[2]
The petitions had filed the petition against the ban of cow slaughter on the ground of article 19(1) (g) which guarantees freedom to practice or carry on any profession, trade, business or occupation. The public has right to choose employment, do trading and business activity impose by the state for the public welfare but state has empowered with reasonable restrictions which should be just and in the favor of general public.
Article 21 of the Indian constitution guarantees right to live and liberty except the procedure established by the law. If the parliament bans the slaughtering of cow it will infringe the fundamental right of citizen to what to eat or restricts the consumption of food of their choice.
On the other hand it is well justified to ban the slaughter of cow as in article 51A (g) of fundamental duties it enabled the state the protect and improve the natural environment and to have compassion for living creatures.
In 2017, central government’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market) Rules has laid down certain rules and limitations on sale of cattle in animal market. Here it is responsibility of purchaser and seller to ensure that the animal would not use for slaughtering. Section 11 of this act says that any act committed in the course of killing an animal for human food does not come within its purview. The law is contradictory in nature which states that killing of animal for food does not consider cruelty against them and on the other hand says ban on selling of animals for slaughter in market. The section does not mention ban on slaughter specifically at the same time disallow to sale animals for slaughter. Hence this act is not clarifying the exact idea or the act that should be done.
High courts of the various states given different judgments on the ban of cow slaughter regarding the rules mentioned in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Market Rules) 2017.[3]
In 1996,in Hasmattullah v State of Madhya Pradesh case the MP imposed total ban on slaughter of bull and bullock but Supreme Court quashed it saying cattle above the age of 16 years are of no use for breeding, draught and agricultural purpose hence slaughter could not be banned as it is unreasonable and violate the right to trade and profession.
In 2005, the case of State of Gujarat Vs. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kassab Jamat and Others it was held that the court observed that when the cattle get old they still use for energy production as by giving  dung for biogas and fuel. It is wrong to say them useless. The foundation of Indian farming is the bovine and her offspring as it were. The entire structure of the Indian horticulture and its monetary framework is in a roundabout way reliant on the dairy animals.”. It was in this way viewed as important to force absolute denial against butcher of offspring of dairy animals[4].
Banning the cow slaughter will hamper the different businesses. As a result it will direct make huge impact on the economy of our country.
As in the diverse nation the food habits are also different hence constitution makers had taken great decision to put it under the state list rather to go for central list. But whenever central tries to put its hand in such matters, problem accurse. As it is not possible to satisfy every one’s ideology. However politicians seem to enjoy too much from it. Speeches and rallies on enforcement of ban on cow slaughter seems lucrative to them. We need to understand that the article must be enforced as and when needed by the economy. However the idea of enforcement of ban should be entertained keeping in mind the diverse population of the country and their beliefs.



[1] Anubhav pandey, Cattle Slaughter Ban in India, ipleaders(April 17,2018),

[2] Cattle slaughter in India, Wikipedia,

[3] PDT Achary, Rules Against The Law

Why the Centre’s notification against cattle slaughter is controversial,the indian express (July 6, 2017 1:54:00 am),

[4] Supra note 1,1.



Rakshit Sharma is second year law student at New Law College, Bhartiya Vidyapeeth University, Pune.





In Content Picture Credit: Media India Group


  1. Yash Sharma says:

    Well written Mr. Rakshit. Really insightful article, backed by relevant incidents and data.

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